One of the things that I find often needs to be addressed with most individuals is their execution and attention to detail. I've talked about this before in other articles, but when we look at creating targeted muscle contractions there is an attention to detail on certain aspects of a movement that need to be addressed. Especially for isolation exercises, placing high amounts of attention on securing the point of origin for a muscle is crucial.
To understand this need, we need to remember that muscles often have more than one specific function. For example, the function of the hamstring is to flex the knee AND extend the hip. The Lat (Latissimus Dorsi) adducts and internally rotates your arm at the humerous, and aids in shoulder extension. They complete multiple actions, and in order to isolate a specific function we must place an emphasis on the action(s) we are wishing to develop. This is especially important when utilizing isolation work with the goal of creating joint stability.
The other thing we need to understand when it comes to creating joint actions and stability, is that muscles have origin and insertion points. The afore mentioned Lat muscle originates at the spine from the T7-L5 vertebrae, and inserts on a bony process on the inside/front of the humerous or upper arm. This is important to know, because when a muscle contracts it pulls its insertion towards the origin.
Knowing this, we start to look at the need for creating a stable origin for a muscle to pull towards. Much like the docking point for a ship in a harbor, we want the thing we're pulling towards to be something that is rock solid. This allows us to get the most out of our muscle contractions. So when we are trying to train the lats, we want a stable spine, meaning we would lock our core in before executing a lat pulldown or dumbbell row. If we are looking to train extension of the elbow via the long head of the triceps, we would want to lock in our shoulder blade because the long head of the tricep originates from a process on the scapula, giving the long head a stable anchor point.
This understanding also allows us to then understand how certain muscles work as part of a system. It helps us realize why locking in the core on a deadlift allows us to use a bigger leg drive, as the hamstrings and quads originate on different points of the pelvis and allow the knees and hips to extend. And how the locking of the core requires contractions from our lats, obliques, and rectus abdominus to effectively create stability.
So when you're executing an exercise, start to think about where the muscle you're working originates from. It may take some research, but when you understand that point it allows you to get the most out of your training, and take your results up a level.